Here’s a look at all the items I might typically take with me travelling.
Of course, my exact backpacking packing list will depend on things like weather, time of year and religion (all mentioned back at the start of this post).
Lightweight rain jacket
Trainers - Tropicfeel trainers are one of the best things to bring when travelling abroad for long periods of time, as they are an excellent all-round travel shoe. Here’s my full review of Tropicfeel and why I think they're great.
Hiking boots - Only include these in your travel packing list if you honestly think they will get regular use. We carried ours for 4 months around South America and they only got used twice!
Hot weather packing list items:
Flip flops - I recommend Reef, as they are excellent quality and great for wearing long distances
Cold weather packing list items:
Female packing list
Here’s a look at the range of items Cazzy might take with her depending on the nature of the trip.
As you can see, her packing list is a bit different to mine ...
Here’s a look at the final items that I would class as vacation packing list essentials.
Wallet to hold important documents - This has been a lifesaver for us! A simple plastic wallet that allows you to keep all important documents in one place, ready for when you need them.
Driving license and international driving license - If you plan on hiring a car or moped abroad, then make sure you pick up an International Driver’s Permit at least a month before you plan to leave. If you’re from the UK, then this can be done at The Post Office.
Copy of your passport - We take these just in case we were to lose our passports and needed some basic proof of our identity. Plus, if you ever need your passport details, then you can refer to these rather than getting your passports out.
Copy of your vaccinations - Some countries require proof that you have received certain vaccinations before they let you into the country. A big one is Yellow Fever, and we’ve been asked to show this at the border of a number of countries around the world. If you don’t have it, they may deny you entry.
Print out of your travel insurance - If you do have some sort of accident abroad, it’s worth having a print out of your policy in order to show doctor’s what you are covered for and help avoid paying fees there and then.
Travel insurance - Always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance before you travel. Sure, you may never need it, but if you do have a major accident abroad, without it you can be left stranded there with 6 or 7 figure medical bills. If you’re from the US, then World Nomads seems to be a good option for quick insurance with good coverage. If you're from the UK, then Compare The Market is what I’ve found offers the best range for my sort of trips - Annual Policy with unlimited trips abroad, each one a maximum of 4 months long.
Cameras & Other Travel Tech
Over the years, we’ve started paying more and more attention to the types of tech we take abroad.
Not least because they help us to create epic travel content to share with you on the blog!
Here’s a look at what we take with us on a typical trip abroad and what to pack for travel if you want to up your photography skills.
This is basically a larger, more professional camera which you can then upgrade by purchasing a variety of different lenses. The DSLR we use is now almost a decade old, but still works incredibly well. If you’re serious about upping your photography game then a great place to start is by picking up a DSLR.
We picked this up not long before our trip to Indonesia and allowed us to capture those epic landscapes in all their beauty. As mentioned above, you can pick up all kinds of different lenses to upgrade your DSLR, but for us we usually opt for the standard lens that the DSLR came with, as well as our wide angle lens; allowing us to capture 90% of the shots we need.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one handheld camera that allows you to capture great photos and excellent videos, then you really can’t go wrong with this camera. It’s so small and compact that we can take it on day trips no matter where we are, and don’t have to worry about it taking up too much space. And what’s great is that the sound recording quality is superb so it’s great if you plan on vlogging and editing cool videos together.
When we upgraded our GoPro from the Hero 4 to the Hero 8, we really couldn’t believe the difference in quality. The Hero 8 solves every issue we’ve ever had with its older counterpart and is now one of my favorite pieces of travel gear. It’s small and slim and doesn’t require a bulky waterproof case. The image stabilisation is out of this world, also it records high quality sound so can be used to record in far more situations. In terms of taking photos, the quality is okay, but it proves great for those fisheye selfies. You definitely need one of these if you plan on doing any adventurous or underwater activities.
The Popularity of drones has truly exploded over the last few years and they’ve gone from being a rarity to the norm at most popular tourist spots. We love our DJI Mavic Pro and take it with us everywhere (as long as it’s legal of course). DJI is the go-to brand for reasonably priced, superb quality hobby drones. If the price tag of the Mavic Pro or Mavic 2 is a little high, you can pick up a Mavic Air or Mavic Mini for a lot less.
Almost everyone already has a smartphone these days, and they are excellent for all manner of travel needs. We use ours for everything, right through from social media to navigation. Just make sure to get yours unlocked before you travel anywhere. This allows you to pick up a local sim card and stay connected to data no matter where you are. This proves so useful for emergencies and helping to navigate if you get lost (which we do a lot!).
For most travellers, taking a laptop isn’t really necessary as it’s just one more piece of tech to worry about. For us, it’s essential as we work and travel at the same time so always have our laptops with us. Even when not working, I must admit that having a laptop is great for those days when you’re exhausted from traveling and just want to chill and binge Netflix. The Asus Zenbook is an excellent laptop, much cheaper than the similar specced Apple Macbook Air and I highly recommend it.
Absolutely essential if you plan on taking a few pieces of camera gear with you and need some way to organise all of your photos. Before we bought one of these, we were constantly stressing and fretting about where all of our photos were from different trips. We can personally recommend WD Elements and Seagate as great quality reliable brands.
Similarly, with so many devices on the go it’s important to have the right selection of memory cards to get the full use out of them. Just be aware that, as the quality of your recordings go up, you’ll need to get higher quality memory cards. For example, recording 4K drone footage takes up a LOT more space than just typical DSLR photos. In our drone we opt for SanDisk Extreme.
And how do you keep all of these memory cards safe and organised? That’s right, with a hard case! Just like buying the hard drive, getting this hard case allowed us to quickly tidy up all of our memory cards and have peace of mind that they were all safe and organized somewhere. Plus it allows you to keep spares to hand for when others get full up.
When we’re out and about exploring for a day or more, it’s always worth having a power bank at hand, for those times when you run out of juice. A solar powered one is an excellent investment as you can then keep it topped up whenever you’re in the sun and never worry about being caught short on power ever again.
Finally, a VPN is a worthwhile investment to make if you want to maintain access to all of your favourite websites around the world. For example, many countries block the use of Netflix, but by having a VPN you can trick the WiFi into thinking you’re somewhere else and give you access no matter what. Still confused? Read more here.
What To Pack For Travel: Health & Safety
Beyond taking a basic first aid kit with you, there’s a few other health & safety items you may need to pack to keep you healthy when abroad.
These can include:
Important medication & supplies - For us, this takes the form of Cazzy’s spare type 1 diabetes equipment. It usually fills about a third of my big rucksack if all in one place so takes up a significant amount of room. One thing I will say is that if you have important medication as well, then be sure to split it up into two different places. So that, if one bag did go missing or gets stolen, then you have enough backup supplies to last you until you can replace those that are lost.
Mosquito repellant spray - If you plan on going somewhere hot, then pick up some great quality bug spray before you go. It’s not only for mosquitos, but can keep all other annoying insects at bay.
Plug in mosquito deterrent - We take one of these with us when visiting countries where mosquitoes are a real issue (aka most parts of Southeast Asia!). You simply plug this into the wall socket at night and it emits a high frequency sound to keep unwanted buzzing pests away.
Sunscreen - We’ve started taking more and more note of how damaging certain products can be. That’s why it’s worth picking up reef-friendly sunscreen as it’s nowhere near as damaging as typical sunscreens.
Antimalarials - Before visiting certain countries, speak to your travel nurse or search online to see which countries have malaria risk. We’ve needed tablets for many parts of Asia, as well as South America. We always opt for Doxycycline as, in the UK at least, it’s a lot cheaper and has never caused us any side effects.
Travel Padlock - To help keep your belongings safe, it’s worth picking up one padlock for every bag you have. They come in useful when staying in hostels where you need to lock your stuff away. They’re also great for when you need to store your luggage away in the hold at the airport or on a bus and you want to be sure no one is rifling through them. Be sure to get one that is TSA approved.
Miscellaneous Things To Pack For Travel
We’ve already covered most of our international travel packing list, but here’s a few other products that didn’t fit the categories above and which you may want to discover.
Fold down coffee mug - Saves space in your luggage whilst helping to cut down on your use of non-recyclable materials.
Handpresso - I bought one of these for Cazzy on her birthday and she has never looked back! As someone who loves great espresso coffee, it’s an absolute game changer as she can indulge this pleasure no matter when in the world she is. If you’re a bit of a coffee snob as well, and want to save money on those daily coffee runs, then it can be a great investment.
Pin to open the sim card hole on the phone - I keep a small metal one of these in my wallet at all times.
Dry bag - Great when out exploring places on water.
Quick drying towel - We take one of these on all of our backpacking adventures as they are small and quick drying so can be used when out and about for the day.
Packing cubes - If you’re limited in packing space, these are perfect for helping you to stay organised.
Kindle - Personally, I just use the Kindle app on my phone to read books. But these are much more lightweight than packing physical books.
Physical books/travel guides - Sometimes it’s nice having the real thing!
Buff - This is a great piece of travel gear, it’s so versatile and can have dozens of uses when travelling. Such as helping you to block out light and noise in order to sleep when travelling. Or, for keeping dust and sand out of your face when out doing something adventurous.
Ear plugs - Essential if you plan in staying in hostels.
Multivitamins - It’s natural that as you travel your diet will suffer somewhat. It can be hard getting varied foods in you, so multivitamins are a great way to just make sure you’re getting a well-balanced array of nutrients and vitamins in your system.
Waterproof phone case - A cheap alternative to buying a GoPro, but only for less adventurous water activities.
Snorkel - If you are heading somewhere you’ll be doing a lot for snorkelling (such as The Philippines) then buying you brown can prove a lot cheaper and better.
Binoculars - For you nature enthusiasts who plan on going on safari or just doing a lot of nature watching out and about.
Travel pillow - Personally, we don’t use these as they take up a lot of space. However, if you plan on doing a lot of bus and plane journeys, then this could be a worthwhile compromise.
Mosquito net - We’ve never really needed one of these, but if you are staying in cheaper hostels in spots that are at higher risk of mosquitoes, then it could be worth taking with you.
What NOT to pack for travel!
Here’s a few items that DON’T deserve a spot in your travel packing list!
A sleeping bag - Unless you plan on camping, then don’t bother taking a sleeping bag. We’ve never needed one on any of our backpacking journeys.
A stupidly big bag - Taking a ridiculously big backpack or suitcase with you travelling is bad because it encourages you to fill it with useless backpacking gear you don’t actually need. Sure, this packing list is long, but we probably only take half these items on any one trip, so as to save space and only take what we actually end up using.
Jewellery - Unless you’re going on a fancy holiday to somewhere with a safe to store your valuables, it’s not a smart idea to take lots of jewellery with you. One or two pieces that you wear all the time might be fine, but if you’re travelling for a long time then you’re at an increased risk of theft.
Too many white-coloured clothes - Based on experience, if you’re planning on travelling for a long time and clothes will all be packed away in a rucksack, then whites are not a good idea. They’re so easy to get stained and dirty, and will have to be washed more regularly or more thoroughly than coloureds.
Big towels - Every single hotel we have ever stayed in has provided us with towels, so the only towels we’ve taken is a light microfibre towel which is quick drying. If you’re in hostels constantly, then a big cotton towel is still a bad choice as it’s going to take up lots of room and never truly dry in a dank hostel room.
Lots of books - Again, unless you’re going for a relaxing holiday in just one place, then taking multiple books with you is not a smart idea. I do the majority of my reading from the Kindle App on my smartphone. I must admit, reading a paperback book is better than reading off a device. So I will sometimes have one paperback book with me, but after reading I then trade it in at the next hotel or hostel for another one.
Our Top Travel Packing Tips
Before starting to pack, lay everything out
This is great because it allows you to quickly check through and make sure you haven’t forgotten anything before actually packing. You can also see whether your bags will realistically be big enough to store everything. You can also better create systems of how to compartmentalise all of your backpacking gear.
Ask yourself “Do I really need this?”
Another benefit of laying everything out before you pack is that you can ask yourself: “do I really need this?”. One of the great things about travelling for long periods is that it shows you how little from your life back home you actually need to use every day. Plus, if you do suddenly need an extra pair of pants or something, you’ll easily be able to buy one abroad.
Make a separate carry on packing list
It’s worthwhile taking a few minutes to write out absolutely everything you think you may need on your flight. There's nothing worse than being 5 minutes into a long haul flight, suddenly realising you left something important in your hold luggage! For me, this always includes things like earphones, laptop, a jacket and snacks.
Pack valuables in your carry on
We always aim to keep as much of our valuables as possible in our carry-on bag. This includes things like our laptops and cameras. It’s nice having them to hand, knowing that they can’t get broken or stolen when being passed through transit in the hold.
Take double the supplies for important medication
One thing that you simply cannot afford to go light on when packing is any important medication or health supplies. With Cazzy’s type 1 diabetes equipment, she always takes at least 2 or 3 times the bare minimum she will need. This covers against any unforeseen event, such as insulin getting frozen, equipment being broken in transit or stuff getting stolen.
It’s worth paying a little more for quality gear
If you plan on doing a lot of travelling in coming years, then it’s worth spending a little more on top quality bags, shoes and camera equipment. It actually saves you money in the long run, as you otherwise may need to constantly replace broken and worn out equipment. It also makes for a much more enjoyable travel experience overall.
Fill every crevice
Rather than just placing items into your bags, think strategically about ways to save space. A big one is filling any open spaces with smaller items. For example, if you have spare shoes in your case, then stuff smaller items inside, like socks.
Always leave a little space
Based upon what you have packed, do you think there will be space to pack any souvenirs you pick up along your travels? It’s always nice to pick up small trinkets and souvenirs to remember your trip, but you have to realistically have enough space in which to fit them and bring them home!
Pack a couple of carrier bags in the bottom
Stuff will naturally get dirty as you travel, so we always include a couple of carrier bags or bin liners within our bag. That way, we can quickly throw any dirty shoes or wet clothes into these and keep them away from everything else inside which is nice and clean.
I'm an Economics graduate with a passion for travel. In 2016 I decided to ditch the office environment, work from my laptop and travel to every country in the world. You'll find me working out of a cafe in Bali, perhaps on a riverboat in Brazil or maybe even an airport lounge in New Delhi.